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LONDON: British shell companies have been linked to 52 money laundering scandals involving £80 billion (SR393.54 billion) in the past 14 years, according to researchers at campaign group Transparency International.

Tax evasion and financial crime have shot to the top of the international agenda in recent days following reports based on leaked documents from Appleby, a prominent offshore law firm founded in Bermuda.

But the report from Transparency International’s UK arm said it’s not just Caribbean islands that are used to hide illicit money flows and that Britain was a key link in many of the largest corruption scandals of recent years.

Fraudsters in eastern Europe and elsewhere often channel money through UK-registered entities because they appear to many people as more legitimate than tax haven-registered companies, the non-governmental body said.

The UK Treasury declined immediate comment on the report. Britain says it is doing more than most countries to tackle illicit money flows.

It is the only country to have introduced a functioning, publicly-available register of true beneficial owners of companies.

However, the system is poorly policed. Companies House, the body which overseas British corporate records, does not have the resources to verify the information submitted to it.

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